Oh Porto!

      6 Comments on Oh Porto!

Please don’t call the city Oporto, even though that’s the name of their airport. Some random, international miscommunication landed that name, locals prefer Porto. We took a whole week to explore this hilly, foggy, port town. With average rainfall that exceeds both London, England and Portland, Oregon, we managed to avoid the rain. We did experience the thick, billowy fog, however. It comes & goes at random hours of the day, shifting the blue warm skies to a mysterious and moody ambiance.

Douro River

Douro River Sunshine

Fog on Douro

Douro River Fog

The fog, the rain and summertime humidity create a rough climate for soft sandstone buildings. These centuries old buildings

oldest home in Porto

the oldest home in Porto, still occupied – our wide-eyed guide on the porchstep

still stand (or barely stand) thanks to the addition of delft tile. Portugal, rich in cobalt, makes tile, a pretty solution to their construction needs.tiled houses in Porto

tiled houses of Porto

If the tile is too expensive, then it is added only to the seams, like the two houses on the right

Historic District

We’ve planted ourselves just outside the historic district of Porto. Here, it isn’t pretty. It has a communist, or maybe I should say fascist, feel: grey, functional, box-like apartments stacked one right after another. But it’s changing: one “box” has been torn down across the street, there is a 4 star high-rise hotel next door, and the economy/tourists are allowing local businesses to thrive.

Walk two blocks, and you enter a part of Porto that is very old.

narrow street

typical old town: narrow streets, cobbled roads, laundry hanging

The fabric has been woven for over a thousand years, with continuous settlement and rebirth. Actually, you can go back even further, there is archeological evidence showing Phoenician trading ports dating to 8BC. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, affording Porto additional capital to revitalize.

Porto buildings

View of Porto from Gaia, fog just starting to roll in

Generalizing the Portuguese

Crosswalks are for sissies. Espresso goes with breakfast, lunch and dinner (and everything in between.) And, traffic signals are a suggestion. We have been told by a local, the Portuguese have their heart in their mouth. In other words, they are quick to have an opinion – without a lot of thought behind it – then they will fiercely defend it.

men in a Porto park

Gathered for an intense game of cards

Also we have been “warned” to double check the directions you’ve been given by a local, invariably they will have “the” answer, whether they know it, or not – mostly because a Portuguese knows “everything”. Lastly, they are saudade, which apparently doesn’t translate well into English, but loosely means, nostalgic, sad or homesick…. listening to Portuguese Fado music is probably the best way to translate this word.


We rented a tandem bike (first time ever!) and were told to go to the BFF district.

tandem bike

a bicycle built for two

That would be Best Fresh Fish district. Not in Porto, but a little north in Matosinhos. The town transports you to the roots of street food. You check out their catch of the day, sometimes still twitching, and point to what you like. They put it on the coals and serve it up family style.

BBQs with fish

Lunch Rush

So, we walked up and down the street and then opted for this burly dude’s “Q”:

Portuguese BBQ

That’s our lunch on the grill at O Lusitano, Matosinhos

I’ve never had sardines prepared like this – heads & tails in tact – drenched in a heavy salt which seems to burn off, but still coat the skin lightly. The squids were tender, and probably the best we’ve ever had. They even gave Woody a moment at the grill for a photo op:Woody at the grillAnd, we’re taking the habit of having an espresso or café after our meals. This time a new experience awaited us: we were introduced to aguadente, or as we determined later, Portuguese firewater.

espresso & aguadente

Espresso & aguadente (yeehaw!)

Talking About Food

We like to go where the locals go – after all, isn’t that the point of travel? We also like to look for places that have a hand written menu because that generally means they are serving items which are fresh that day.

handwritten menu

OK, I understand the “Today” part. . .

Restaurant Flor de Bragança met that criteria, and we found it in a narrow alley in the heart of historic Porto.

Flor de Bragança restaurant

definitely a “working mans” lunch spot

We explored the working class department, to the department of disposable income: the land of Port wine, or vinho do Porto.

Ramos Pinto Poster

They are not in love with each other – they are in love with the wine

Only a true Port wine comes from the Duoro Valley of Portugal, and has a culture of its own. Growing grapes in this valley is tedious work. To gain a sophisticated introduction we went on a Port wine tour.

Porto Cruz Port tasting

Professional Port tasting room at Porto Cruz: white, ruby, tawny and red

Interestingly, we were the only Americans on our (English) tour of about 25 people. My take away: it’s sweet, can be expensive, makes a nice desert, and a drink to cherish after a festive meal, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

red port

beautiful, intentional grape skin sediment


toasting with port wine



6 thoughts on “Oh Porto!

  1. Audrey P Adams

    Oh I just learned a fado dance last month! Lovely upbeat music but I am told the lyrics are very sad. It is a fun dance anyway. Glad you and your computer are back together. XOXO

  2. John Stipan

    Great pix again Hali! Hi Woody! Today’s gospel is from Matthew chapter 21, verses 33 to 43 which is about vineyards. Apropos if you ask me. Here it is (btw, I love you guys!)…
    Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
    “Hear another parable.
    There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
    put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
    Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
    When vintage time drew near,
    he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
    But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
    another they killed, and a third they stoned.
    Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
    but they treated them in the same way.
    Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
    ‘They will respect my son.’
    But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
    ‘This is the heir.
    Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
    They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
    What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
    They answered him,
    “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
    and lease his vineyard to other tenants
    who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
    Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
    The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
    by the Lord has this been done,
    and it is wonderful in our eyes?
    Therefore, I say to you,
    the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
    and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

    You’re in my prayers for safe travels.

    1. Hali Post author

      John, I love your contributions. And, you make me think. I’m not always so good at that (esp. scripture!!) Let me digest these words – maybe with some wine. Love to you & Brenda


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